Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My NCAA Tournament predictions

Alright, I’ve looked at this bracket a hundred times now and still am coming up with the same reaction I had when the field was announced.
As much as this college basketball season has been wide open, and as much as I thought there would be a number of upsets, I went chalk in a lot of the regions and don’t have any double-digit seeds making it to the Sweet 16.
It was just something about the matchups. There are a lot of “good teams” in the field but none are really “elite.” When it comes to the poor seeds, I just don’t see that team that can really make a run. Bucknell and Belmont, two 11 seeds, may be your best bet for Cinderella runs, but I just couldn’t make the picks myself.
Anyway, here are my picks for each region and my championship pick.

Midwest Region
In the toughest region I have the top four seeds all reaching the Sweet 16 next weekend. I really like Saint Louis in any other region, but the Billikens are going to come up just short against Louisville.
Michigan State will give Duke a run for its money, but the Spartans haven’t always been good at defending on the perimeter. MSU has given up nearly 600 3-point attempts this season (18.1 per game), which could spell trouble against the Blue Devils with Ryan Kelly back in the lineup. Can MSU beat Duke? Certainly. But, I don’t see it happening this time around.
I then see Louisville getting the best of Duke in the regional final in a classic contest. It should go right down to the wire, but I think Louisville’s guard play and athleticism will carry it past Duke.

West Region
This is the weakest region, and thus the most wide-open region as well.
I like the top three seeds to reach the Sweet 16 along with fifth-seeded Wisconsin.
I also like the Badgers to eliminate the first No. 1 seed in Gonzaga. I think the Badgers’ defense and style of play will carry to a run to the Elite 8.
Ohio State and New Mexico should be a great contest, but I like the Lobos to advance. New Mexico has a great resume and is battle tested, more than people would think. Steve Alford has done a great job with that program.
In the regional final, I see New Mexico getting past Wisconsin in a grinder.

East Region
In this top-heavy region, I have the top four seeds in the Sweet 16. I could see the winner of Butler-Bucknell getting by Marquette, but the Golden Eagles are probably better than I give them credit for.
I have Miami advancing to the Elite 8 because I think they have the easiest road to the Elite 8 of any team. I just don’t see any other team in its half of the bracket being able to handle the Hurricanes’ size and athleticism.
I have Indiana over Syracuse in the other regional semifinal. The Hoosiers just have too much talent for this Syracuse team, which has been streaky all season long and can also be very streak in games. Indiana is the more consistent team.
When it comes to the regional final, I like Miami over Indiana. I think the Hurricanes have the bodies to be physical inside with Cody Zeller, which tends to make him less aggressive on offense and on the glass. Miami also has the athletic guards to keep up with Victor Oladipo. If the Hurricanes can guard the perimeter, they should be able to win.

South Region
Big surprise, I have chalk in the Sweet 16.
Michigan has the talent to beat Kansas, but I think the Jayhawks will be too much for the Wolverines. This game will be in Dallas and the pressure will be on. Michigan hasn’t done too well in that scenario against elite teams. Until Michigan can prove it can win these games to me, I can’t pick it to beat Kansas.
I like Florida to beat Georgetown in the other semifinal. I don’t know that I really like either team to make it this far, but they have favorable bracketing. The sixth seed (UCLA) is without one of its starters and the seventh seed (San Diego State) has been up and down all season. In the end, I think Florida will have more composure than Georgetown and get the victory. The Hoyas can be great, but they have a notorious history of struggling in the NCAA Tournament.
I then see Kansas over Florida. I think the Big 12 is more of a challenging conference than the SEC. Florida was clearly the best in the SEC, but it didn’t face a lot of great challenges during conference play. The Big 12 is overly great either, but Kansas has faced some strong non-conference teams like MSU, Ohio State and Saint Louis.

Final Four
I think New Mexico can win it all, but I think getting to the Final Four will be reward enough. Louisville got to this point last year and will be hungry to close the deal. Give me the Cardinals over the Lobos.
Miami vs. Kansas should be a tough battle. I just think the Hurricanes will get it done. Similar to New Mexico, Miami could be satisfied by just getting to this point, but the Hurricanes have a lot of seniors that I think will help keep the team focused. It has the better team on paper, and I think they will beat Kansas.
In the championship, I am going with Louisville. I feel like the Cardinals are playing the best and their experience of being in the Final Four will lead it to the championship this year. The Cardinals have the talent, like Miami, but I just can’t get myself to pick Miami’s basketball program to win a national title. I think it can go all the way, but history says go with the other team. Thus, I am picking Louisville to win it all.

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